Thursday, 27 September 2012

Jim Currie's explosive email on privatisation

Jim Currie is the Cornwall Council cabinet member in charge of finances and corporate support. He's also deputy leader of the council and the former leader of the Conservatives on the old County Council. So when he states his unease with a flagship council policy, he deserves to be listened to.

In an explosive email to all Cornwall councillors this morning, Jim has said that he is still deeply skeptical about the whole privatisation (or Joint Venture in council speak) proposal. He suggests that each of the new jobs created by the partnership could cost as much as a million pounds. He talks about secrecy and legal threats and a lack of evidence.

But Jim's key area of concern is procurement. The proposal is that this service - which ensures that Cornwall gets the best service levels and value for money whenever it buys in other services - will be privatised. Jim asks, quite reasonably, how we can get best value in the future if the private company is procuring itself.

You can watch Jim's speech at the last council meeting in the Cornwall webcasting facility. Use this link and then scroll though on the right hand side until you reach 14.14 (3hrs.44.36 into the broadcast). He has sent all members of a copy of that speech but then added the following footnotes:

"The JV (joint venture) process has been described as a year and a half of smoke and mirrors (and secrecy) sorting out £22m a year contract followed by a smash and grab raid of a few weeks imposing a £436 million a year contract for procurement. I would agree with this description since I was on leave when it happened.

The correct procedure to challenge the Cabinet decision on JV was a call-in by Scrutiny. Indeed there are 7 situations that can each trigger a call-in and this decision had six of them. Unfortunately the Single Issue Panel consisted of the main players from Scrutiny who were baulked by competitive dialogue secrecy and the speed of the procurement extension to the contract. The reports to Cabinet were excellent but done in record time. Procurement which is 95% of the Equity was not identified.

The promise of jobs in six to seven years time indeed may well happen. Unfortunately, information freely available to all members would indicate a distinct possibility that each job could cost the Cornish taxpayer one million pounds. At that rate the jobs will continue to happen so long as members push up Council Tax as their main involvement.

Not a jury in the land would endorse the annual delegation of twice the size of all Council Tax revenue being described as a purely executive (Cabinet) function.

The Competitive Dialogue process has been backed up by secrecy, loads of anecdotal comments including filibuster and threats of legal action but no real evidence. Unfortunately it takes ages to filter out the direction of travel so members are getting a kicking if they venture into the minefield. .

Procurement has been recognised by the Local Government Association as a priority and they are setting up their own school. There are several Local Government Consortia and together with the LGA (safety in numbers) we would not be at such a risk as with current JV proposals.

Since the 4th of September I have seen or heard nothing to change my views on the massive risk involved with the size of this venture.

Jim Currie"
Comparisons have been made already with the devastating speech made by Geoffrey Howe in helping to bring down Margaret Thatcher. I'm not sure that Jim would deserve the 'dead sheep' analogy, but when one of the main figures in your administration writes in this way, then things are looking grim for the Leader.

1 comment:

David said...

I like the Geoffrey Howe analogy but I'm having trouble seeing Cllr Alec Robertson in a wig, blue skirt and handbag!